A pillar of the community who wrecked a child’s life with sexual abuse and “brainwashed” her with fear, is today beginning a 30-month jail sentence.
For decades, Michael Batten, now 70, hid his sordid secret from friends, colleagues and his wife, Cardiff Crown Court heard.
But the truth caught up with him when his victim, now in her 30s, sent him a private letter, hand-delivered by courier, so there was no error in him receiving it, telling him clearly what it had felt like to be terrified into submission by a trusted friend of her family.
She had been abused during visits to his home, in snatched moments while his wife’s back was turned, a jury heard last month, before convicting him of three counts of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child.
The four charges represented a course of paedophile behaviour over two years, beginning when she was eight.
She told the jurors how after years of therapy and suffering physical illnesses she attributed to her childhood trauma, she took a year to put the letter together, hoping he would show some remorse for what he had done.
When, after destroying it, so his wife of 37 years would not see it, he replied saying he was “sorry if she mistakenly thought he had done something” and wishing her well for the future, she went to the police and told her family what she had never wanted them to have to hear.
“I was ill because I was keeping his dirty secret”, she said.
Jailing Batten, of Neath Road, Maesteg, despite his age, his poor health and the length of time since the offences, Judge Neil Bidder QC told Batten, a retired British Rail employee in remission from prostate cancer : “I have no doubt your abuse of her left lasting psychological scars.”
He said Batten convinced her young mind that she had had done something wrong and she would be the one taken away by the police if ever they found out.
“You made her believe she was complicit,” he told him.
“You showed her a police car parked outside one day – she was not only frightened but wracked with guilt.”
He said her teenage years were tainted by having to pretend nothing had happened when her abuser was present at family events, even on Christmas Day.
“She bottled up her guilty and it had a serious effect on her.”
The jury’s verdict, he said, should help the healing process.
“You led a blameless life apart from this,” he told the pensioner.
“But your good character was based on a lie.
“You had been trusted by her parents, by her and by your wife. They allowed you to spend time with her but you groomed her to accept more and more physical contact.”
The victim herself had told the court: “It was so subtle I don’t know how long it took to change from friendly play to abuse.”
Friends she had confided in, confirmed what she had said, not just recently but years ago.
“I was a vulnerable, trusting child and you broke my spirit,” she had written to him.
Batten will be on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely.
Judge Bidder said that and a ban on ever working with children should protect the public from him in place of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order(SOPO) as suggested by prosecutors.
A SOPO, he said, could interfere with the work of Batten’s wife Non, a Welsh teacher, who tutors from their home.
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